Quinn Christopherson is the winner of the 2019 Tiny Desk Contest.
Ash Adams/Courtesy of the artist
Ash Adams/Courtesy of the artist
After months of watching entry videos — over 6,000 of them — the judges of the fifth annual Tiny Desk Contest have chosen a winner!
Quinn Christopherson is a singer-songwriter from Anchorage, Alaska who writes with emotional depth and a powerful sense of perspective. In his 2019 Contest entry video, “Erase Me,” Christopherson muses about his complicated experience with privilege as a transgender man. He performs in front of a painting of Denali at the Anchorage Museum, accompanied by his friend, Nick Carpenter, on guitar. “I got so used to pulling the short stick / I don’t know what to do with all this privilege / ‘Cause I got a voice now and I got power / But I can’t stand it,” he sings.
Christopherson explains it’s been about a year and half since he began his transition from female to male. Before he began this process, he had never considered the level of power that society would bestow on him just for being a man: “I got so many more responsibilities at work just handed to me. Like, people were just asking me questions I didn’t know anything about.”
He recalls going through eye-opening experiences he never expected. “I would just hear terrible things that men would say when they think women aren’t around,” he says. “And that is what started the process of writing this song because, I don’t know, the misogyny — it just got worse as I came onto this ‘other side.'”
The Tiny Desk Contest winner has a day job, too; Christopherson, who is Athabaskan and Inupiaq, currently works as a counselor for Alaska Native youth. He says he’s played some of his music for the young people he works with. “Kids – well, teenagers especially – they’ll just tell you exactly what they think, right when they think it,” he says, laughing and adding that it’s “a really good soundboard for getting critique.”
Christopherson says the universal message of “Erase Me” is that “you cannot assume things about people” based on appearances or perceived identity.
“We can all relate to some kind of privilege at the end of the day,” he says, “whether it be subtle or big, in my case. But it’s really important to be open about it and know where you’re at.”
Alysse Gafkjen/Courtesy of the artist
Alysse Gafkjen/Courtesy of the artist
- “Faraway Look”
- “Walk Through Fire”
- “Love All Night (Work All Day)”
The songs on Yola‘s debut full-length solo album, Walk Through Fire, ring out with the triumphant air of someone who has withstood the flames and the heat en route to achieving their dreams. The title is a metaphor for some of the tribulations Yola has faced – including experiencing homelessness in London, and enduring an emotionally abusive relationship. The title is also a nod to the time Yola’s dress literally caught fire a few years ago, and sent her house up in flames.
Yola shares stories about some of the lows and some of the highs she has experienced – including performing with Massive Attack in front of 60,000 people at Glastonbury. Yola says many people who hear her story call her a “strong black woman,” and she explains why that isn’t the most welcome or useful reaction.
Walk Through Fire was produced by Dan Auerbach, and Yola joins us to perform from Dan’s Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville.
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Journalist Katherine Eban says most of the generic medicine being sold in the U.S. is manufactured overseas — sometimes under questionable quality control standards. Her new book is Bottle of Lies.
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The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog has found $124,000 in improper travel expenses by former administrator Scott Pruitt. It suggests the agency find a way to recover those costs.
Ask Cookie Monster to demonstrate self-control? Sounds like the setup to a joke. The blue, furry monster we grew up with was pure id.
But in recent years, Cookie has evolved as Sesame Workshop has sharpened its focus on social and emotional skills. Research shows that at least half a child’s success is determined by those skills.
Life Kit: Parenting has been looking at strategies for helping kids learn emotional self-regulation and self-control, so we called in Cookie for help.
We put out a plate of his favorite chocolate chippies. He demonstrated key strategies for waiting out or cooling down a “hot” moment of anger, fear or, in this case, temptation!
Here’s what Cookie did to keep his monster hands off those sweets — and what you can help your children do to resist temptation and reach their own goals.
- Take a deep belly breath.
- Look in a different direction.
- Focus on the reason you are waiting — for example, a promise to share the cookie with a friend.
- Distract yourself — for example, with singing.
- Talk about something else — say, a book you are reading.
Raveena’s debut album Lucid is due out May 31.
Kelia Anne/Courtesy of the artist
Kelia Anne/Courtesy of the artist
With each new release, Raveena‘s star is deservedly rising. Following “Mama,” her touching tribute to immigrant mothers released earlier this month, the Indian-American R&B experimenter shares her latest single “Stronger” and announces her debut album, Lucid.
Part letter of contempt, part self-actualization, Raveena conceptualized the song’s message while on an acid trip. She uses a sound bed provided by producer Everette Orr to house an epiphany in real-time about what she will and won’t accept in the name of love.
“Holy as a sunrise / Clear as water / I was so naive to think a man could be stronger than me,” she starts off over a simple, supportive hymnody before the beat drop. Typically known for a feather-on-air falsetto, the tone of “Strong” is in a lower register and feels likes a tightrope walk between the serene and staunch. “I know you love to see me broken / You live to see me confused, at my knees / Don’t talk too soon, I ain’t dead yet,” she promises with merciful reprieve.
Raveena’s debut album Lucid is due out May 31 via EMPIRE Distribution.
In Fleabag, the show’s creator and writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge stars as a young Londoner struggling to make sense of sex, family and life itself.
Steve Schofield/Courtesy of Amazon
Steve Schofield/Courtesy of Amazon
When Lena Dunham‘s Girls appeared seven years ago, it cleared the path for a parade of smart, provocative television shows about smart, provocative young heroines.
The best of the bunch may well be Fleabag, the hilarious, raunchy and unexpectedly touching Amazon series by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the British writer and actress who created the terrific TV adaptation of Killing Eve and was recently asked to punch up the script of the new James Bond movie.
Waller-Bridge knows how to have fun with the flickering currents of female wit, desire, insecurity and anger. The first season of Fleabag charts the confusion of Waller-Bridges’ title character, the 20-something owner of a floundering London café who’s dealing with the tragic death of her BFF.
Lanky and libidinous — sex is both her torment and her refuge — Fleabag is also startlingly self-dramatizing. She constantly breaks the so-called fourth wall to talk directly to the audience as she enjoys kinky sex, bickers with her success-mad sister Claire (Sian Clifford), or bemoans that her widower father (Bill Paterson) has taken up with her godmother, a two-faced artist played by Oscar-winner Olivia Colman.
Season 2 finds Fleabag’s world changing beneath her feet, with her sister’s marriage in trouble and her dad about to wed the godmother she can’t stand. Searching for peace, she veers off in the strangest direction. She gets the hots for a sexy, foul-mouthed Roman Catholic priest played by Andrew Scott, the wonderful Irish actor perhaps best known by American audiences as Professor Moriarty on Sherlock. This irreverent reverend senses Fleabag’s inner distress, and the two develop a relationship that may or may not court mortal sin.
As it riffs on questions of belief, season 2 pulls off the rare feat of taking a hugely successful show and making it much better — in part by revealing the limitations of the original season. Where the enjoyable first season proved Waller-Bridges’ versatility as an actress — her eyes have the animated eloquence of a silent film star’s — it sometimes betrayed its origins as a one-woman theatrical show. It was a tad too eager to tickle the audience with its naughtiness, and the other characters felt less lived-in than they should. At times, the whole world seemed like an adjunct to Fleabag’s psyche.
But everything is richer and more fluid in this second season. Fleabag’s family takes on a new emotional solidity, with even Claire’s cartoonishly noxious husband (Brett Gelman) developing some shading. And Waller-Bridge has found her perfect foil in Scott. With his oddball timing and slightly intoxicated affect, his priest does for Fleabag what his Moriarty did for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes. He knocks her out of her comfort zone.
While all six episodes are good, I want to single out the third as one of the greatest episodes of television I’ve ever seen. Juggling low comedy and high wit, it moves from a farcical gag about flatulence, to Kristin Scott-Thomas’ character’s majestic speech about women’s aging, to a breathtakingly intimate scene with the priest in which Waller-Bridge takes the convention of a character directly addressing the audience and gives it a spin so original it’s thrilling. You grasp what makes him, and their relationship, so special.
Ludwig Wittgenstein once said that the aim of philosophy is to show the fly the way out of the fly bottle that imprisons it. Season 2 finds Fleabag trying to escape the “fly bottle” of her own head — and all its theatrical loneliness and longing. Without ever getting precious or self-helpy, it’s about learning to believe in the possibility of human relationships that are genuine, emotionally connected and capable of enduring.
Whether Fleabag reaches such belief, you’ll have to decide. For her part, Waller-Bridge has made a decision of her own. Resisting the current imperative to keep shows going season after season, she’s already announced that this is the end of Fleabag. Which is just further proof of how great this show is. After all, if there’s anything harder than making a good season of television, it’s knowing when you’ve said what you had to say.
If you’re even a casually observant jazz fan, you might think you know a thing or two about Joe Lovano. A tenor saxophonist with dozens of albums to his name, most of them made during a roughly 25-year tenure on Blue Note Records, Lovano is one of the most instantly identifiable musicians on the jazz landscape and on the New York scene. But he didn’t come from nowhere.
With that in mind, Jazz Night in America joins the amiable saxophonist on one of his customary visits to Cleveland, where he came up under the wing of his father, Tony, a tenorman known “Big T.” We’ll stop by his Uncle Sandy and Aunt Rose’s house, where he spent countless childhood hours, and hear family lore from his brothers Anthony and Patrick, and sister Laura-Jo.
And, of course, we’ll hear some terrific music — Lovano on the bandstand at The Bop Stop, a Cleveland fixture, with close friends like vibraphonist Ronzo Smith and drummer Carmen Castaldi.
“There were five generations of musicians in my life from Cleveland that I presented in those two nights,” Lovano muses. “I didn’t realize it ’til afterwards, either. You know, it was just people I wanted to play with.”
You’ll want to be there, so to speak, when he does.
- “Sounds of Joy” (Lovano)
- “On This Day” (Lovano)
- “Body and Soul” (Johnny Green)
- “T Was To Me” (Lovano/Ronzo Smith)
- “Spiritual” (John Coltrane)
- “Good Bait” (Tadd Dameron)
Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone, taragato; Anthony Fuoco, piano; Bobby Ferrazza, guitar; Ronzo Smith, vibraphone; Eddie Baccus, organ, Aiden Plank, bass; Carmen Castaldi, drums; Greg Bandy, drums; Anthony Lovano, drums; Jamey Haddad, percussion; Patrick Lovano, spoken word.
Producer: Alex Ariff with Sarah Geledi; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Recording Engineer: Regis Sedlock; Mixed by David Talleckson
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed legislation making Washington the first state to enter the private health insurance market with a universally available public option.
Rachel La Corte/AP
Rachel La Corte/AP
Millions of Americans who buy individual health insurance, and don’t qualify for a federal subsidy, have been hit with sticker shock in recent years. Instability and uncertainty in the individual market — driven in part by changes Congress and the Trump administration made to the Affordable Care Act — have resulted in double-digit premium increases.
Now Washington state has passed a law designed to give consumers another choice: a new, “public option” health insurance plan that, in theory, will be cheaper.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat who’s running for president, signed the measure into law on Monday.
“Washington state is leading the nation in a brighter way to provide for the health and security of our families,” Inslee said at a bill signing ceremony in the state Capitol in Olympia.
Talk of a public option has been around since before passage of the Affordable Care Act. Generally, the idea is for the government to create a health insurance program to compete with the private marketplace, one that, unlike Medicaid and Medicare, would be available to all.
Washington’s embrace of a public option comes as Democratic candidates for president are talking about Medicare-for-all proposals and some states are considering letting people buy in to Medicaid. Washington is thought to be the first state law to authorize the creation of a public insurance plan of this type.
But is Washington’s approach to individual health care a true public option?
“It depends on how you define a public option,” says Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Under Washington’s approach, called Cascade Care, the state will not get into the insurance business. Instead, Washington is creating more of a hybrid public-private system where the state will contract with private health insurers to administer the plans, but will control the terms to manage costs. In that sense, says Tolbert, what Washington is creating could be called a state-sponsored plan.
Still, Tolbert says, it’s not yet clear how much of game-changer Washington’s new health insurance law will be.
“I think we have to wait and see,” she says.
Washington state, Tolbert notes, has a history of leading the way on healthcare by seeking innovative approaches to expand coverage and ensure affordability.
But she also has a reality check for consumers about the new Washington law.
“It will likely be a lower-cost option, but [it’s] unlikely to be a dramatic savings over what people are paying today, more likely a modest savings,” Tolbert says.
Even sponsors of the legislation acknowledge the state plans may only save consumers 5-10% on their premiums.
Democratic state Rep. Eileen Cody, who sponsored the House version of the public option bill in Washington, says, given the climate of rising costs, it’s less about bringing prices down than about holding the line on premium increases.
“What we’re hoping is the rate that you pay today is what you’ll pay when this comes on the market,” Cody says.
Here’s how Washington’s new law is intended to work.
Starting in 2021, consumers seeking individual coverage will have the option to buy a state-sponsored plan on the Health Benefit Exchange, the state’s online insurance marketplace. To keep premium and deductible costs down, the new plans will cap total provider and facility reimbursement rates at 160% of Medicare.
That cap is the keystone of the new law.
“It’s the first time that anybody has put a rate cap on a plan and tried to make sure that those people who are buying insurance don’t have to pay so much,” says Cody.
Another feature of the new law may give consumers some relief from other, out-of-pocket expenses. By 2021, the exchange will create standardized health plans with the goal of lowering deductibles and copays.
The creation of the Cascade Care program, at the request of Gov. Inslee, follows years of volatility and steep premium increases in Washington’s individual health insurance market.
Washington state officials say the individual insurance market has been buffeted by a series of actions by the Trump administration and Congress. These include the end of federal reinsurance and cost-sharing payments, as well as the suspension of penalties for individuals who don’t buy coverage.
“It’s been a triple whammy that’s created this bow wave effect in terms of premium increases year-over-year,” says Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
This year, the state’s insurance commissioner approved an average premium increase of 13.8% for plans sold inside the exchange. In 2018, the average rate increase was 36%, a spike attributed in part to President Trump’s decision to stop funding cost-sharing reduction assistance.
As premiums have gone up, enrollments have dropped. Between 2018 and 2019, more than 13,000 people left the individual market, according to data provided by Washington’s exchange. Today, about 200,000 Washington residents buy their insurance individually.
Besides affordability, another challenge has been getting insurance companies to offer a choice of plans in all 39 Washington counties. Currently 14 counties only offer one individual health insurance plan option on the exchange. In previous years, the state has scrambled to find even a single carrier to provide coverage in some rural counties and avoid what are known as “bare counties.”
The goal of the legislation is to offer public option plans in all 39 counties. But participation by health insurers in Cascade Care will be voluntary and there’s no requirement they offer statewide coverage.
Democrats, who are the majority in the Washington legislature, embraced the public option this year as a way to increase offerings on the exchange without scaling back required benefits or requiring additional state spending on health care.
“This is going to lower premiums, it’s going to have better [out-of-pocket costs] and Washingtonians will be much better off for it,” said the bill’s prime sponsor, Democratic state Sen. David Frockt of Seattle, on the floor of the state Senate last month.
Republicans in the state legislature opposed Cascade Care and warned of potential unintended consequences.
“We worry that this could distort the market,” said state Sen. Steve O’Ban, the ranking Republican on the Senate’s Health and Long Term Care Committee.
O’Ban raised the specter that doctors might drop Medicaid patients “to make it work financially to participate in this plan with the lower reimbursement rates.”
Under Cascade Care, the state will not subsidize or help cover the cost of premiums beyond federal subsidies that are already available on the exchange based on income levels. However, the new law requires the exchange to study the feasibility of offering state-level subsidies in the future.
“We think initially the consumers that will be most interested in purchasing these plans will be those who don’t qualify for subsidies and who are paying the full cost of healthcare out of their pocket,” MacEwan said.
Washington isn’t alone in pursuing a public or state-sponsored health insurance option. Last month, Colorado lawmakers approved legislation directing state agencies to develop a proposal for a public health coverage option. Other states, including Connecticut, are also considering public option legislation.